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March to Count the Cost of 9 years of war in Afghanistan takes places in Grand Rapids

October 10, 2010

Yesterday, about 20 people participated in an event for the 9th anniversary of the US occupation of Afghanistan.

Organized by people calling themselves Grand Rapids for Justice & Peace in Afghanistan, the anti-war march began at the now closed Central High School. Organizer Mike Saunders stated the location was picked in part because it was a reflection of the spending priorities, where money was leaving the Grand Rapids community while funding for public education is dwindling.

Before the march began John Kroondyk talked about how military recruiters target students through JROTC programs in schools and the disproportionate focus on students from communities of color. Kroondyk said that even though there isn’t a military draft, many working class students end up going into the military in what amounts to an “economic draft.”

Once the group left Central High they marched through neighborhoods going door to door the leave informational flyers on the cost of the 9-year US occupation of Afghanistan for Grand Rapids taxpayers.

The march moved east and made a stop at the cemetery on the corner of Fulton and Eastern. At the cemetery people read the names of Afghan civilians who have been killed since 2001 and US soldiers who have died during combat in Afghanistan. After each name was read a gong was struck to dramatize the loss of human life.

In addition to the list those who have died, people heard some comments from a Vietnam veteran who counsels soldiers who are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSDs). PTSD is such a serious problem for those who have served in Afghanistan that it often ends in suicide. In fact, the rate of suicides for US veterans who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq has equaled or surpassed the number killed in combat in those two countries.

As the group moved south through Grand Rapids people could see the housing stock in worse condition and many houses were boarded up. Despite the poverty many people showed support for those marching and willingly took flyers. The group distributed 400 informational flyers along the march route.

When the group arrived at the Baxter Community Center again the comments that were shared focused on the monetary costs to Grand Rapids of the 9-year US occupation of Afghanistan. According to the National Priorities Project since 2001 $185 million dollars has left this community to fund the war in Afghanistan. Had that money stayed in Grand Rapids it could have provided funding for low-income health care to 25,617 people.

The march ended up at Martin Luther King Jr. Park and as the people arrived they were greeted by an audio recording from one of Dr. King’s speeches where he condemned militarism. “A country that continues to spend year after year more money on war than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

At the park Cole Dorsey from the local chapter of the IWW told people that this US government, both Republicans and Democrats, doesn’t care about Afghanis. He also said that this war was a war of imperialism to protect the interests of capital. Cole then told people about numerous opportunities to learn more about what US policy in Afghanistan and actions they could take to resist such policies.

People wrote on a large roll of paper with ideas about how they would like to see the millions of dollars be used right here instead of leaving Grand Rapids to fund the war in Afghanistan. The group intends to take this information to the Grand Rapids City commission. People can get that information and information about other efforts by going to the Facebook page for the group Grand Rapids for Justice and Peace in Afghanistan.


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